Friday, 4 June 2010

Rio out, Drogba doubt for the World Cup Finals

What a bad weeked for England and the Ivory Coast.

Rio Ferdinand has succumbed to an eleventh hour injury with the tournament just a week away. It would have been his fourth World Cup, a new England record.

The England skipper sustained a knee injury in their first training session in Rustenburg in a clash with Emile Heskey. Michael Dawson's been drafted in as replacement; he's the fifth Tottenham player in Fabio Capello's 23-man squad.

Steven Gerrard steps upto take the vacant captain's armband for the first game against the USA next Saturday. But Ferdinand will stay with the England squad for the opener.

But while it's bad to lose your skipper, the England squad can cushion the blow. The Ivory Coast fear they've lost their chief talisman Drogba, the man who gave them a puncher's chance of winning it.

Drogba suffered an elbow injury during their warm-up game with Japan having just scored from a deflection. He's had a weekend operation and his recovery is described as encouraging.

The Chelsea striker, known for his high levels of fitness as the Blues marched to the Premier League title this season, is the difference between success and failure for Ivory Coast, pitted as they are in the Group Of Death with Portugal and Brazil.

Sven-Goran Eriksson can't possibly have a Plan B to replace their best player and one of the world's great strikers. Working with Drogba must have been a major consideration in Sven accepting the post in the first place.

Although given Eriksson's track record, you can expect Drogba to make some kind of appearance. Sven likes to strap up his big stars and play them irrespective of injury. Remember Rooney and his metatarsal ahead of Germany 2006?

Meanwhile, Holland's Arjen Robben sustained a hamstring in their last warm-up game but despite missing the squad plane to South Africa, he's expected to join up with the squad before the tournament gets underway.

Whoever you support, it's a bad day when the World Cup Finals is denied its best players.

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  1. Excellent work Darren & Jonny- very funny.
    The World Cup has a very different feel to it on this side of the Severn Bridge.
    I haven’t been to England recently (not even for the Cardiff City play-off final) but I bet I can guess exactly what it’s like:
    St George’s flags are everywhere and the whole country is decked out like a loyalist estate. People who never watch football normally and who can’t name half the England team are jumping on the bandwagon. Even the Prime Minister is joining in. Yes, yes, I’m aware he’s the nephew of former Aston Villa chairman Sir William Dugdale, but when Mr Cameron was asked by Dylan Jones if he supported them, he said (and I quote): “Vaguely yes, because it was the first football match I ever went to.” I think we can take it that the history of The Villa won’t be his specialist subject on Celebrity Mastermind. Even so, he’ll be joining in the hype, hoping his public popularity will rise by pretending to be ‘one of the lads’.
    Cheap, tacky looking St George’s flags are attached to the front of cars. Incidentally, during the last Rugby World Cup the same thing happened here with Welsh Dragon flags. A university academic worked out the amount of extra money in petrol you end up paying because the flags actually slow your car down ever so slightly. I can’t remember the exact figure, nor does it matter, because petrol is significantly more expensive now than it was then.
    We’re not immune from the hype, that’s for sure. We still get Terry Venables crooning during every ad break. I can’t even remember what he was advertising, which must tell you something about how effective it was. Was it The Sun? I’m not sure. Then there’s the one with an older, heavier John Barnes advertising Mars (see, I remembered that one) to a reworded version of ‘World in Motion’. Believe me; putting an England flag on your product won’t improve sales around here.
    The other day, I bought some electronic equipment from a well-known website. When I went to checkout, a caption popped up asking me if I wanted to pay an extra £1 for an England flag. Well, considering I actually like having glass in my window, I declined their offer.
    Here in Wales, not qualifying for the World Cup is the norm, not the exception. For the record, the last time we qualified was in 1958, when my mum was four years old. And no, it doesn’t get any easier because we’re used to it. England fans- remember how you felt in 1994, or when you lost to Croatia two and a half years ago. We’ve had our share of nearly-made-its. I was very young at the time, but I can still clearly picture Paul Bodin’s missed penalty to deny us a place in USA ’94. He’s gone down in history as our Gareth Southgate. Imagine that; Wales making it to the World Cup when England couldn’t.
    Then there was the match against Russia which Wales needed to qualify for Euro 2004. We lost. One Russian player failed a drugs test. Some of the other Russian players weren’t tested at all. UEFA were utterly spineless in dealing with the situation and Russia got away with it.
    The English have Diego Maradona as the ultimate villain. Us Welsh have Joe Jordan. He might look harmless enough sat next to Harry Redknapp in the Spurs dugout. Believe me, he’s not. Long before I was born, he cheated Wales out of a place in the World Cup.
    The occasion was Wales’s World Cup Qualifier against Scotland on a cold, damp night at Anfield on 12 October 1977 (the Welsh fans couldn’t be trusted to behave at Ninian Park, apparently). Having already beaten group rivals Czechoslovakia 3-0 at Wrexham, a win over Scotland would have taken Wales within touching distance of qualifying for the finals in Argentina.

  2. The Scots had already lost 2-0 in Prague, and so Mike Smith's men sensed their chance - even though the ‘home’ match would be played on foreign soil.
    Both sides had chances in an open and pulsating encounter, but as the match approached its final stages, it was still goalless.
    But then, in the 78th minute came the fateful moment and Jordan's piece of handiwork.
    The Scotland striker rose with Wales defender David Jones to challenge for Asa Hartford's long throw into the Welsh box, and then to the astonishment of the Welsh fans and players, French referee Robert Wurtz awarded a penalty.
    Television replays clearly show it was Jordan's and not Jones' hand deliberately flicking the ball towards goal, but Mr Wurtz had made his decision.
    Don Masson scored the resulting penalty, and Kenny Dalglish added another ten minutes later. The dream was over. Some of us have long memories, stretching back many years before I was born in my case. I’m not bitter, honest!
    I’ll be supporting England in their matches- I believe in the United Kingdom and if I skip back four generations I’ve actually got some Cornish blood. I’m also quarter-Italian on my mother’s side, so I’ll be backing the Azure as well.
    I’m actually really looking forward to this World Cup, but it seems to me that the English fans have a tendency to believe their own hype. Considering the strength and prestige of the Premier League, the pool of players Fabio Capello had to pick from was tiny. Of the three ‘goalkeepers’, two of them are shot-stoppers. Only Joe Hart is a goalkeeper in the true sense of the word.
    Wayne Rooney is obviously a genuine world class player. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are also real giants in the world game. The rest of the squad are just good. Nothing more. England fans; put your squad, and your expectations into perspective. Stop believing your own hype. A run to the semi finals would be an extraordinary achievement. No amount of TV adverts with former managers being pushed around nursing homes in wheelchairs by Kelly Brook will change that (again, what product were they advertising? Pass).
    I take the whole thing with a very large pinch of salt. The excellent RTE panel put the whole England hype into perspective in their opening day broadcast of the last World Cup in 2006. Here’s Eamon Dunphy:
    Here is the best World Cup fixture guide I’ve ever seen:


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